Friday was the beginning of a new week, with the only change in our SE class being the absence of the aforementioned Mr. Kim. Fridays are shorter, and my private lesson is right after the lunch break, so I was done by 1:30. The plan was for Christian (the German guy in my class), Mike (an American in my class), Arnaud (a French guy in a couple classes below us), and I to head to a large game center Christian and Mike knew of from the last time they’d studied here. A short trip by local train to Kita-Okazaki took us to a place called Loop, a three-floor game center that seems out of place there. The first floor had prize games, purikura, and Taiko Drum Master; the second floor was mostly medal games and pachinko with a few prize games, and the top floor had actual video games (fighting games, driving games, music/rhythm games, and some stuff we don’t have in America). The ingenious way this place operates — unlike anywhere I’ve yet seen in Japan — is that you don’t pay for games as you go, but are given an RF bracelet which you use to touch a panel that adds a credit to whatever you want to play. No coins, no money changers; this means you have a harder time keeping track of what you spend. I spent way more than I wanted to there; while I’m not a gambling man, prize games’ rarity in the U.S. is probably a good thing for me. Still, the highlights from my time there:
- I won two pillows from a put-the-rod-through-the-hole game (which was harder than it looked).
- Christian and I played through a fair amount of the SIlent Hill arcade game. I could actually hear the bad voice acting this time, and we only quit because the difficulty level had ramped up to the point that we were dying too often.
- The four of us won a pile of ぷっちょ and other candy from a machine by taking turns scooping-and-dropping until we won.
- I came in second in a game of Wangan Midnight 3 four-player, narrowly edging out everyone but Arnaud.
- I watched Christian play some DDR on easy, then a Japanese guy play on mega-hard and do well.
- I got to try the Persona fighting game, which was entertaining… but I accidentally chose a live opponent, who did the same set of moves against me over and over until he’d won all three rounds.
- I got to play the Loveplus arcade game, which was in a small, closed-off area. I selected the photo-print option, but didn’t quite understand it. I did, however, get a printed photo of Rinko at the end.
After cashing out, the four of us headed back to Okazaki proper, intending to get some dinner. There’s a place called すたみな太郎 (Stamina Tarou), a 食べ放題 yakiniku place, between the school/station and our dorms, and that’s where we headed. (As an aside, the restaurant’s billed as “Amusement Viking Family Restaurant” — in Japan, a viking restaurant means all-you-can eat.) The day and time we arrived determined the price, which was still under 2000円 for ninety minutes. This is a long time.
The place featured a great quantity and variety of food. It was all self-service, but your choices included the following: meats (different cuts and animals, some spiced, plus shrimp), vegetables (some to eat from a bowl, some to grill on the table), basic Japanese fare (rice, miso, etc), sushi (seriously, unlimited 握り寿司), desserts (pies, cakes, etc), and even stuff like cotton candy (via machine) and crepes. The place was marvelous, and the four of us ate and ate until we were stuffed. At one point, I passed one of the employees, an older gentleman, and said to him, “I’ve got bad news…” The idea was to get him to ask what was wrong, and I’d tell him I was getting full. He saw right through my joke, though, grinning knowingly and lightly patting my stomach. I did manage to eat a bit more, but we all eventually had to stop. I can’t say how long we were there, but I know it was well under ninety minutes. After leaving (slowly), we all agreed that such dinners should be rare, and that it would be quite some time before we’d be eating like that again. I came back, lay down, and stayed in bed for the next 11-12 hours from fatigue and a full stomach.